Dunfermline Athletic

Dunfermline Athletic 0 - 0 Partick Thistle

Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 26th Mar 2011

No goals and not a lot of excitement as both teams cancel each other out, in this tightest of first division races. Although the Pars may rue another missed opportunity to top the table, it’s still in their own hands.

Whether it’s the frequency of games, the quality of the pitches or just coincidence, for some reason injuries seem to be coming thick and fast. Bell and Phinn had both suffered setbacks and to the lengthening list must be added Cardle and Willis. However, Mason was back from his one-match ban and he would form a triumvirate in the middle of the park with Burke and Hardie. McDougall and Graham were part of a front 3 with Buchanan, McDougall having a freer role compared to Graham who stuck to the right largely. At least the back 5 was settled with Woods and McCann flanking Rutkiewicz and Keddie in front of Smith. John McDonald was the token under 19 on the bench, alongside Higgins, Dowie, Clarke and Paterson.

Partick made one change with Australian Ryan McGowan coming into central midfield in place of Jackie McNamara in what looked like a traditional 4-4-2 shape. Simon Donnelly provided some Pars interest with his appearance on the bench.

The Pars kicked off and the initial signs were encouraging – an early Graham cross from the right caused some confusion, and there was a half-hearted shout for a penalty as Thistle struggled to clear, before Woods put in a good ball to pick out Hardie at the back post, but although Fox pulled off a fine save, a free-kick was awarded to the defending side.

However, after a couple of fruitless Pars corners this early promise soon dissipated and it was the visitors who had the better chances, and they could count themselves unlucky not to take the lead. Firstly poor defending in 8 minutes gave Erskine a chance beyond the back post but he blasted over the bar, before Doolan had a chance inside the box but he mistimed his shot and the ball squirted wide. In fact the best chance fell in 14 minutes when a lapse in concentration allowed the ball to be cut back from the bye-line for Doolan to head against junction of bar and post.

The Pars main attacking idea seemed to be to pick out Hardie at whichever far post was appropriate. McCann was seeing a lot of the ball, and once or twice he managed to combine with McDougall, but nothing of any note developed until midway through the half, when Hardie did manage a header from a McCann cross but Fox gathered with ease.

The Pars survived another scare when McGowan’s late arrival in the box caused a distraction and Woods had to block another Erskine effort, before the Pars put together their best move of the half to date. Mason tracking back made a ball-winning tackle, Hardie picked up and swept the ball to Graham and after he motored down the right and cut back to Buchanan at the edge of the box, it seemed like Bucks could take a touch and pick his spot. This he did, but Fox was given the chance to make the save to his left and all the Pars had was a corner.

For all that Thistle had had some chances, they still hadn’t worked the keeper, but this omission was rectified in 30 minutes when McGowan tested Smith with a volley from 25 yards after Burke’s clearing header had fallen nicely. Fox was similarly untroubled when Graham cut inside a couple of minutes later and tried his luck with his left foot, but despite a McDougall effort well over the bar, and a looping Keddie header from a last minute corner, neither keeper was troubled further.

Half-time: Pars 0 Jags 0

Simon Donnelly replaced Martin Grehan at the break but neither side made any change in formation, demonstrating a mixture of patience or confidence that might have been difficult to justify objectively. The Pars did manage to get the ball in the net soon after the restart following a corner when Woods’ ambitious drive was heading nowhere until it took a deflection, but the goal was rightly ruled out. Graham had cleaned out the keeper and Charlie Richmond had already blown for the foul by the time Buchanan bundled the ball over the line.

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